The terror network has deep Islamist roots – and a training camp in East Java, authorities and experts say.
Anti-terrorism forces in Indonesia have arrested three men in Central Java who allegedly stored explosives for Abu Hanifah, leader of the Sunni Movement for Indonesian Society (HASMI).
The men, identified as Winduro bin Nur Hadi, 28, Feri Susanto, 23, and Bambang Kurmanto, 45, were arrested December 6th and 7th in Sroyo village of Karanganyar Regency.
“They were arrested because they are suspected of storing chemicals and explosive powders for suspect Abu Hanifah,” Agus Rianto, National police spokesman, told reporters in Jakarta on December 7th.
Police reportedly found black powder suspected of being a bomb-making ingredient, three Molotov cocktails, and flashlights in Feri’s house.
The arrests follow counterterrorism operations across Java in late October that netted 11 HASMI members, including Abu Hanifah, as well as homemade bombs, explosive material, ammunition, and bomb-making manuals.
The network was planning attacks on US diplomatic missions in Surabaya and Jakarta, a Jakarta building that houses the offices of mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, and police facilities in Central Java, according to police.
Terrorist training camp in Java
HASMI emerged from Tim Hisbah, the network responsible for recent suicide bombings in Cirebon and Solo, and has roots in the 1950s-era Islamist group Darul Islam, Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert from Malikussaleh University in Aceh, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
“Abu Hanifah restored the Tim Hisbah movement after the death of Sigit Qurdowi, the chief of Tim Hisbah,” Chaidar said.
“He recruited new members who are not Jemaah Islamiyah members,” he said. “Unlike many terrorist groups which link to Jemaah Islamiyah, Hanifah’s network links to Darul Islam, which came to the fore in the 1950s as rebels sought to set up an Islamic state.”
Its main target, according to Chaidar, is the Indonesian government, which is hindering its efforts to establish an Islamic state.
Following the arrests in October, police learned that Abu Hanifah’s network had been conducting paramilitary training in Gunung Wilis, Madiun – unlike other militant groups that set up training camps in conflict-prone areas outside of Java, like Aceh and Poso.
“It is not something new that terrorist network established a paramilitary training camp in Java, because Darul Islam has been doing it for many years, such as in Serang, Banten and also Parangtritis, Yogyakarta,” Noor Huda Ismail, executive director of the International Institute for Peace Building, told Khabar.
Winduro bin Nur Hadi, one of the men arrested on December 6th, is suspected of having trained at Gunung Wilis with Abu Hanifah, National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told reporters during a trip to Lombok, according to Liputan6.
“Hanifah’s network has about 70 members. Up to now, police have arrested about 33 of them,” Chaidar said.
Militants in their midst
Residents of the village where the arrests took place expressed shock.
A witness, Yudi, said Winduro was a friendly person who worked as a garbage collector. “There is nothing wrong with his presence among people. He looks normal and works hard,” Yudi said.
Local resident Samardi Sastro expressed disbelief that local youths from a small village like Sroyo could radicalise.
“It is possible that young children can be radicalised once they leave our village. But as I witness here, there is no radical teaching or suspicious acts around the neighbourhood,” he said.
A former researcher from Gadjah Mada University, Yonaye Odriana, said radicalisation can happen anywhere.
“Youths can be radicalised in many ways, through teaching, learning, and/or by the Internet,” Yonaye told Khabar by phone from her home in Yogyakarta.
“This case is additional evidence that a small area can be a good place to grow radicalism,” she said of the arrests in Karanganyar. “Therefore, a neighbourhood watch must increase its role to monitor the community closely.”
“Meanwhile, a good teaching of peace, tolerance, and harmony based on the Qur’an will help Indonesian youth embrace those values,” she said.
Yenny Herawati in Karanganyar, Central Java contributed to this report